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America’s Cup: Where Sailing Meets Science

America's Cup Bermud

A vacation via XOJET is so free of complications you end up pondering little else beyond where to go and what to do. This May and June, clients flying XOJET to Bermuda for the 35th America’s Cup yacht races will encounter an irony: sailboats not so different from the planes they flew in on.

Technology has long been a fixation for designers of America’s Cup yachts, but the most recent breakthrough is particularly stunning. Simply stated, the airfoil principle discovered by a Swiss mathematician centuries ago is what lifts a plane airborne (it’s all about wing shape) while the analogous hydrofoil concept allows America’s Cup Class catamarans to defy gravity, as well.

These yachts are able to elevate their twin hulls clear of the water and more or less fly—only a slender pole with a plank-like foil attached to it connects boat to water. Built with little-to-no natural materials, the 50-foot wonders require a crew of only six sailors. They benefit from the simple fact that air is so much less dense and choppy than water, which means drag is sharply reduced and speeds are nearly double what the previous generation could achieve.

For this edition of the 166-year-old competition, the water in question is that cerulean blue color Bermuda is beloved for, lined by coral sands tinged a dusky pink. Though high-toned in a distinctly British way, Bermuda is not an acquired taste. Travelers of every stripe fall for the island readily—unless their preference runs toward honky-tonk, which is not to be found there. One of the first (of many) celebrities to develop a fondness for the place was Mark Twain. A newspaper clipping from 1907 describes the famed author boarding a Bermuda-bound steamer. “I am in search of rest, British humor, and an opportunity to appear logical in March in a white suit,” Twain said dryly.

Original America's Cup Painting

Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

The America’s Cup takes place every few years, not according to any set calendar. You win the event and then you wait—for a qualified yacht club (or multiple clubs) to announce a challenge. It all began in 1851 with a race around the Isle of Wight off the English coast, won by the schooner America. Nearly two decades ensued before the first challenge, which ended in a successful defense by the cup’s holder, New York Yacht Club. Over a century would go by before NYYC sailors at last failed to hold off a challenger, losing to an Australian boat in 1983. Throughout that period, the racing venue was either New York City or Newport, Rhode Island.

By that time, the job of defending had become harder, too; multiple challengers came forth in 1970 for the first time in a century, requiring a series of races to produce the team that would make it to the final. This year five clubs are vying to take on Oracle Team USA, which won in 2010 and again in 2013. Since 1983, the fashion brand Louis Vuitton has sponsored the preliminary phase of racing, which is conducted in several stages and takes nearly three weeks to complete. Also since ’83, the competition has been wide open, with clubs from New Zealand, Switzerland, San Diego, and San Francisco honing in on what had been New York Yacht Club’s monopoly. And as new winners have come along, new venues have as well—they’re chosen by the current holder of the trophy. Bermuda’s ideal sailing conditions helped persuade Golden Gate Yacht Club, home base for Oracle Team USA, to bring the festivities east.

Oracle Team USA America's Cup

Luxury lodging is in high demand for this global spectacle, but as of just recently there was decent availability at the preferred hotels, from Rosewood Tucker’s Point to Fairmont Hamilton Princess to Pompano Beach Club. That said, since you’re traveling to the Cup by private jet, the obvious solution is to secure a private luxury yacht accommodation. Our recommendation would be a yacht with anchorage in the exclusive mooring fields right along the race courses, of which there are three: one for J Class boats, one for the Superyacht Regatta, and then the actual America’s Cup course.

The experience aboard a vessel like the 33-meter sailing yacht Marae is bound to be breathtaking. Sleeping six in three separate cabins, the New Zealand-built Superyacht will be tied up at berth 19 within the race village alongside the Cup yachts and teams. And as part of the booking, guests get access to village amenities plus special invitations to an array of VIP parties and press events.

A note about the so-called Superyacht class: It’s part of an overall program catering to competitors who value the social side of sailboat racing along with the ribbons and trophies. Their racing days are June 13-15, but throughout the month-long confab the Superyacht folk are hard to miss, given their premium berthing locations in Hamilton and in the heart of the America’s Cup Village at Royal Naval Dockyard. Those are the boats that fly VIP viewing flags indicating their front-row access to the main-event race course. Owners and their guests enjoy access to a VIP hospitality venue along with invitations to special functions and parties. Put simply: It’s a great bet for where to stay.

America's Cup Superyacht

For cognoscenti, the return of the magnificent J Class after decades away, to race in their own parallel regatta June 16-20, is an exciting development. As a romantic complement to those built-for-speed foiling catamarans, these yachts exude a blend of beauty and power that evokes 1930s glamour.

All things considered, it’s certainly not out of the question to plan a week-long America’s Cup experience timed to coincide with the end of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs final, happening June 10-12—followed by a few days of Super yacht and J Class racing. It won’t give you a chance to see defending champions Oracle Team USA complete its attempt to retain the cup—their showdown with the 2017 challenger begins on June 17 and will last 10 days if it goes down to the wire. That schedule will, however, give you several days to watch the state-of-the-art hydrofoil catamarans in all their carbon-fiber glory, as two finalists in the qualifying vie for the right to challenge Team USA in championship match racing.

If this recommendation seems to imply that the yachting-crowd atmosphere, the posh parties, the beauty of the island, and the global-event buzz are more important than who wins the top prize—well, that’s about right. And if you want to look good in a white suit and hat, you’ve got the right season and just the right place to do it.

How to Get to Bermuda

XOJET recommends flying into L.F. Wade International Airport (TXKF) on St. David’s Island, roughly 25 minutes from Bermuda’s capital, Hamilton, and less than an hour from America’s Cup Village at Royal Naval Dockyard.

*All official photos courtesy of America’s Cup


About the Contributor

David Gould is a writer, editor and consultant with expertise in travel and the transportation industry. He is the former executive editor of Travel + Leisure Golf and the author of several books on golf history and course architecture. He is a Boston native and lives in Massachusetts.